In 2020, much of the world shut down. Convoy of Hope did not. Volunteer professional drivers made uninterrupted intervention possible.
“For me, driving for Convoy is about giving back,” said volunteer driver Ralph Vasquez.
He spent 45 years as an over-the-road trucker, working to make a living. Now, he’s doing it so others can receive much-needed food and supplies.
“I like driving for Convoy. When I take the food to places, just to see their expressions on their faces, it’s joyful … but it’s also heartbreaking to see the need,” Vasquez said. “It’s not just food for them, but they are willing to take it back to others who need it.”
Some 200 million meals were delivered by Convoy in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Vasquez says he’s thankful to be part of the solution.
“It’s amazing to see people getting food. The pandemic took a toll on a lot of people; a lot of them really got scared. But we show up, and it’s amazing to see them come,” Vasquez said. He helped deliver around 20 loads across the U.S. for people who were struggling to pay for food.
Industry experts say if the trucking industry stops, critical industries are affected within 24 hours. Medical supplies will cease, and hospitals will begin to run out of supplies. Gas stations will begin to lack fuel, and mail and package deliveries cease, according to Business Insider. More than 70% of freight is moved by truckers across the nation. Without the incredible volunteer truck drivers at Convoy of Hope, the organization could not help so many people.
“I was so moved to help. A small town in Kentucky was my favorite place,” Vasquez recalled. “The church I was headed to called me and asked what time I would be there. I told them it would be around 7 or 8 p.m. I asked if I could just park in their lot and sleep. And the lady said, ‘Would you want us to help you unload tonight?’” Vasquez was blown away.
Volunteer trucker Jim Aubry and his wife, Sue, are anxious to help others.
“You go to bless, but you’re the one who gets your socks blessed off. It’s been just wonderful,” Sue said.
The Aubrys were first introduced to Convoy of Hope while cleaning up houses that were flooded in Illinois, years before Jim’s retirement as an electrician.
“I was there cleaning, and I met a couple guys from Convoy, and I just fell in love with the operation and the team, and I thought, ‘This could be really good for us someday.’”
Jim will never forget another connection with Convoy of Hope in Moore, Oklahoma, when an EF5 tornado ripped through the town in 2013. Jim jumped in a truck and headed 11 hours southwest. He met up with the Convoy team on the ground and it felt like family.
In 2016, following Jim’s retirement, he and Sue moved from Seneca, Illinois, to Ozark, Missouri, just to be a part of Convoy’s volunteer team of truckers.
“I couldn’t just sit in a lawn chair on the beach for my retirement,” Jim said. “We wanted to help. In 2020, we drove 30,000 miles as volunteers. Sue would go most of the time, too. If something hit the East Coast, West Coast, all over, we’re there. We’ve seen a lot of country.”
They have no plans of slowing down — delivering hope in every storm.